Whoa…First Solar, Inc. (FSLR), Microsoft Corporation (MSFT), Intel Corporation (INTC): What Just Happened to My Stock?

Page 1 of 2

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Indices:.DJI) flashed a 60-point gain yesterday driven higher by the tech sector and its old dynamic duo, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), the “Wintel” team from when PCs still ruled the world. They powered the index higher, each rising by more than 3% on no company-specific news.

Yet Mr. Softy, if no one else, is likely enjoying some instant karma as it joined a few other tech names in a lawsuit in Europe over Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)‘s anti-competitive actions with its Android platform. Several years ago, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) had latched onto an anti-competitive European lawsuit against Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) for allegedly using its Internet Explorer for monopolistic purposes. I guess what goes around does come around.

I say a pox on both their houses since they’re attempting to achieve in the courtroom what they were having difficulty winning in the marketplace. Of course, Europe is the perfect vehicle for that since governments there are more inclined to intervene in the markets, so companies use the EU as a cudgel to beat up their competitors.

The future’s looking bright
Yet yesterday was solar’s time to shine, as virtually every single name in the space seemingly rose by double-digit percentages. Leading the way higher was First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR), which roared ahead 45% after saying it expected to earn a profit well ahead of analyst expectations and was somewhat supplementing its panel business by jumping feet first into competing technology. Color me skeptical on both accounts as I see investors getting burned buying into the hype.

The thin film panel maker is saying not only will 2013 be a great year, but next year and the year after will be, too. This is despite the fact that it couldn’t effectively compete against traditional solar panel makers as an inventory glut drove down prices so it switched to a design-build firm taking on large solar array projects. Now it’s going back to the future, jumping into the rooftop panel business again by buying TetraSun, a solar PV start-up, that will produce high-efficiency, low-cost panels. Seems it will be competing against itself as much as its rivals as the new technology stands in stark contrast to its thin film standard.

It was only last month that First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) was struggling after missing fourth-quarter results and taking down guidance for the first quarter. There were still too many unknowns to issue full-year guidance — wildcards that still exist — yet now it’s giving three years worth of forecasts and all are rosy.

I’d be wary since also coming along for the ride were other ne’er-do-well solar names like LDK Solar Co., Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:LDK)Yingli Green Energy Hold. Co. Ltd. (ADR) (NYSE:YGE), and JA Solar Holdings Co., Ltd. (ADR) (NASDAQ:JASO), all running 20% higher or more on First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR)’s outlook. Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (ADR) (NYSE:STP) surged 30% on the day, but that was after rumors arose that it was shopping itself to the highest bidder because it’s in desperate need of cash. I just don’t think solar’s future is so bright we’ll need to wear shades.

Page 1 of 2